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Media and Epidemics: Technologies of Science Communication and Public Health, 20th-21st Centuries

Epidemics provide significant opportunities to reflect on the ways in which media, technology and society are co-constituted. As medical and social phenomena, they tend to be highly mediatized events, although the limits and local inflections of that mediatization are yet to be subjected to sustained critical attention in both historical and contemporary settings. Moreover, as the Covid-19 pandemic has reminded us, outbreaks of infectious diseases represent a veritable test for a country’s underlying socio-economic and political structures. This includes the ability to harness technologies and infrastructures of communication to overcome public health crises, by implementing population surveillance measures, communicating with broader publics, coordinating epidemic responses or devising strategies of preparedness against future outbreaks. By becoming testing grounds for various technologies of epidemic management (e.g., Lynteris 2018), epidemics also accelerate innovation, adaptation and change, while highlighting inequalities of access, legal, ethical and privacy dilemmas, questions of public trust, effective communication of science and (mis)information overload. This is particularly visible in the disproportionate impact of epidemics on groups that suffer from higher degrees of socio-economic marginalization, such as women, who represent the majority of primary caregivers, ethnic minorities and immigrants, who are often targeted as disease carriers, or persons with disabilities, who are frequently excluded from decision-making processes and have limited access to public health information.

This conference seeks to explore, from historical and contemporary, as well as trans-disciplinary and trans-regional perspectives, the role of media and communication technologies in the making and management of epidemic outbreaks since the beginning of the twentieth century. We welcome submissions from across the humanities and social sciences, pertaining to any area of the world, that engage with the following topics, but are not restricted to them:

– The role of state and non-state actors (medical and public health professionals, health advocates and activists, media and international organizations) in epidemic management.

– The relationship between international organizations and media in the context of public health crises.

– The intersections of media and marginalization in epidemic outbreaks, e.g., how socio-economic marginalization (of women, young people, ethnic minorities, immigrants, persons with disabilities) shapes access to media and communication technologies.

– Historical and contemporary strategies for the management of medical (mis)information and the role of media and communication technologies therein.

– Debates about medical professionalization, expertise and trust in a changing media landscape.

– Environmental communication during epidemic outbreaks.

– The transnational and transmedial study of epidemics, media and circuits of communication.

– The language by which diseases are articulated and understood, and the critical interchange between literature and socio-political uncertainties about disease, vaccination and invasions of the mind and body.

Keynote speakers: Dr Amelia Bonea (University of Manchester) & Dr Jaehwan Hyun (Pusan National University)

Submission guidelines Abstracts of max. 250 words, along with a brief biographical note, should be submitted to MEDEPconference@gmail.com by January 31, 2024. We welcome submissions from early career as well as more established scholars based in any area of the world. Limited funding might be available to contribute towards travel expenses, depending on the overall number of applicants and their financial circumstances. For any queries, please contact Dr Irina Nastasă-Matei at the above email address.

The conference is supported through a grant from the Romanian Ministry of Research, Innovation and Digitization, CNCS/CCCDI-UEFISCDI (Project no. COFUND-CHANSE-MEDEP, PNCDI III). It is organized as part of the CHANSE-funded project Media and Epidemics: Technologies of Science Communication and Public Health in the 20th and 21st Centuries. More information about the project is available at the following links: https://mediaepidemics.com/ https://chanse.org/medep/